The Least, First

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Archive for the ‘Ministry’ Category

The End of Exclusion (Sermon of 8 Feb 09)

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Isolation Room
Image by Victor V via Flickr

With the casting out of the demon on that first Sabbath afternoon of Jesus’ public ministry, his obscurity vanished. Like a cannon shot, news of it exploded through the villages. Here’s what happens next.

Mark 1:29-39 (MSG)

29-31Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and Andrew’s house, accompanied by James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. He went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them.

32-34That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn’t let them say a word.

35-37While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.”

38-39Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come.” He went to their meeting places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

From The Historical Atlas by William R. Shephe...
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About Peter’s mother-in-law:   Actually, she deacons to them.  For reasons of their own (that look a great deal like gender bias!), translators treat the word to mean “became a deacon in a church” when it applies to men, but “waiting tables” when it applies to women (See Richard Swanson: Provoking the Gospel of Mark; A Storyteller’s Commentary, p 108). “In the context of Jewish understandings of the abundance that God created when making the world, the deacon was in charge of enacting God’s created intentions.”  Peter’s mother-in-law was in charge of enacting God’s created intentions.

Likely she was well known for helping others.  Is this why the crowd knew where to show up at sundown? Some think the women who followed Jesus were the reason women dared approach him. Think of the women at the cross who ministered to Jesus all the way through – perhaps greater heroes than we know, and greater shapers of the story than we know.

She’s up, she’s deaconing, and at sundown, a throng gathers at the door. Who can tell me why they came at sundown? Because that’s when the day after the Jewish sabbath began. Jesus had no problem healing on the Sabbath, but the crowds apparently assumed he would. Read the rest of this entry »

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A New Year’s Prayer for Peace

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May 2009 be a year of peace-being and peace-making for you and all those you hold dear.


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Is Jesus MIA? (Readings for September 14, 2008)

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Jesus Christ is, of course, what’s missing from Christianity.

We have positions aplently—”Biblical” positions—or so we’re told by experts. Perhaps we should call our religion “Biblianity.” For Jesus Christ, incarnated again in his ever-new Body, the church, and lived out through the love and acceptance of his apprentices for each other and the whole world—well, Jesus Christ expressed that way is rarer than Nazarenes at a bingo hall.

Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi

It’s not a new problem.  And those who don’t call themselves Christians often see it more clearly than those who do. For example, consider these insights of that spiritual giant Mohandas Gandhi:

  • I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
  • If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.

Imagine. He’s not suggesting proselyting, but rather simply that Jesus Christ lived-out in public and private is mighty appealing.  Which is, of course, just what Jesus did.

So in this week’s readings, Jesus explains one element of what that would look like.  Then Paul brings it home, expecting a new kind of normal for we who follow Jesus together.  Let him take your breath away.

Hope you get to hear it preached somewhere this Sunday.

Proper 19 (24) A; September 14, 2008

Hebrew Bible: Exodus 14:19-31 [Moses parts the sea]
or Genesis 50:15-21 [Joseph forgives his brothers]
Psalm: Psalm 114 [after Israel left Egypt]
or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 [Moses’ song of victory]
or Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 [God is sheer mercy and grace, slow to anger]
Epistle: Romans 14:1-12 [Welcome the weaker brother]
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35 [How many times shall I forgive? Parable of unmerciful servant]

A Story About Forgiveness

21At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Read the rest of this entry »

“To live now as we think humans should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us…”

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UPDATE: I found some good encouragement in the comments of friends at Clipmarks today, and was reminded of this post from nearly two years ago. Here’s a re-post—’cause we all need hope.


Sometimes I think of the enormity of darkness which our world contains, and find the tragedies involved simply too crushing.

How small I am! How seemingly powerless! I find myself in need of hope.
I found some, today, in the conclusion to Howard Zinn’s 1994 book You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times. If you’re invested in bringing good to your world, perhaps you’ll find these words encouraging.

. . . In 1992, teachers all over the country, by the thousands, were beginning to teach the Columbus story in new ways, to recognize that to Native Americans, Columbus and his men were not heroes, but marauders. The point being not just to revise our view of past events, but to be provoked to think about today.

What was most remarkable was that Indian teachers, Indian community activists, were in the forefront of this campaign. How far we have come from that long period of Indian invisibility, when they were presumed to be dead or safely put away on reservations! They have returned, five hundred years after their near annihilation by invading Europeans, to demand that America rethink its beginnings, rethink its values.

It is this change in consciousness that encourages me. Granted, racial hatred and sex discrimination are still with us, war and violence still poison our culture, we have a large underclass of poor, desperate people, and there is a hard core of the population content with the way things are, afraid of change.

But if we see only that, we have lost historical perspective, and then it is as if we were born yesterday and we know only the depressing stories in this morning’s newspapers, this evening’s television reports. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

July 7, 2008 at 4:06 pm

What if we already have what we need?

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Sermon of June 12, 2005 – Proper 6A

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7); Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

Worship order summary:Sarah laughed

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7);
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19;
Come, Now is the Time to Worship
I Waited
Healing Grace
Prayer
Welcome
Ben and Monte: Romans 5:1-8
Sharon: Sharing
Give Thanks
Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
Prayer
Giving
I Want to Know You

Worship order working copy:

10:42 flash lights
10:45 cue worship opener
when it’s done, lights 100% except spots off

Monte intro
Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)

[Remember the promise from last week’s Genesis reading first, and mention the times they gave up on it]

[cue Sarah laughs]

GOD appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. 2He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them. Read the rest of this entry »

On freedom roads

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“On What Freedom Roads Do You Walk?”

Proper 5 A: Genesis 12:1-9, Psalm 33:1-12, Romans 4:13-25, Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
June 6, 2005, at New Oaks Church of the Nazarene, Washington, IA

Night rotation of starsMonte: In Genesis: Last week Noah, today, Abraham. Father of three great religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Read you a bit, then we’ll sing.

Abraham – or Abram, was born, we think, in 2166 B.C. Farther before the birth of Jesus than we are after the birth of Jesus. He lives in Haran – not too far from the city in modern N. Iraq called Mosul. It’ll help you to know a couple things about life there.

1. Abram knows, as far as we know, nothing about God as we know him at the beginning of his story. He’s never heard of Jahweh. He’s never been to a synagogue or church – none exist.

2. Abram is a pagan man in a pagan culture. As much as any headhunter in Borneo ever was. As much as any ancient European ancestor of yours or mine ever was. He’d have household gods set up. The worship he’d participated in might have involved child sacrifice. It probably involved temple prostitutes. Your ancestors’ worship may have, too.

3. Abram’s home culture is sophisticated. It values stability and wealth and probably business over agriculture. It values staying put and getting rich.

And then God starts talking to him. Read the rest of this entry »

Catonsville Nine: “think less of the law, and more of justice”

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Catonsville NineJesus goes so often to the essence of things, rather than the appearance of them. Sometimes, his followers do, as well.

Forty years ago [May 17, 1968], nine committed followers of Christ entered the Selective Service Office in Catonsville. They moved past three surprised office workers, who questioned what they were doing but did not stop them. The nine quickly gathered 378 1-A draft files in wire baskets, then took them to the parking lot and immolated them with a homemade version of napalm. They prayed quietly over the burning papers until the police arrested them 15 minutes later. […]

The catalyst for this, of course, was the unbelievably brutal war in Vietnam.

By 1968, the Vietnam War was ripping America apart. Our actions seemed insane, our rationales ever shifting, our goal never clear. The impact on Vietnamese society as well as on our troops was confusing, demoralizing and deadly. What was clear, however, was that we were dropping more than 9 million tons of bombs on Indochina’s military and civilian populations. We were dropping 72 million liters of biochemical poisons on the land and its people. And, of course, there was hell’s fire: napalm. We used 400,000 tons of it.

By May 1968, the Catonsville Nine had enough. They chose to directly confront the state, to protest where the nation’s leaders had taken us. […]

Controversial? Of course. These are hard and costly decisions. But some of their argument is persuasively Christ-like:

In a play written by another of the nine, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, and based upon the trial transcripts of their conviction, his brother Philip argued: “Let lawmakers, judges and lawyers think less of the law, and more of justice; less of legal ritual, more of human rights. To our bishops and superiors, we say: Learn something about the gospel and something about illegitimate power. When you do, you will liquidate your investments, take a house in the slums, or even join us in jail.” […]

Less of the law and more of justice. Less of legal ritual, more of human rights. So relevant today. Such a deeply Christian sentiment, correcting the self-righteousness questions of legality that infect our dialog about so many issues.

Yes, that could be the voice of Jesus.


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